Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Ex-mayor Pisasale admits sexual assaults

Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale has admitted sexually assaulting a woman in his mayoral chambers in 2016 and unlawful possession of Viagra.

September 24, 2020

Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale wanted to help the “beautiful people” of his city, instead, he’s admitted to sexually assaulting a woman in council chambers, official corruption and unlawful drug possession.

The 69-year-old persistently pursued and kissed a woman in his mayoral chambers on two occasions at the Ipswich City Council in December 2016.

“(The victim) described the impact of the power difference between him as lord mayor and herself …. as making her really scared,” prosecutor Sarah Farnden said on Thursday.

“The offending of the defendant in all respects undermined the integrity of Ipswich City Council and the position of mayor.”

Pisasale appeared in Ipswich District Court, where he previously admitted 28 counts of fraud stemming from his time in office.

He also pleaded guilty in August to perjury and a $28,000 secret commission but a suppression order prevented media reporting it.

This has now been lifted.

Pisasale read an apology to the court, saying he started out trying to help the “beautiful people of Ipswich” but personal “obsession and a lack of judgment” took over during a “dark period of his life”.

“My mind and ego took over and my behaviour was out of control,” he told the packed courtroom.

“I am not a bad person but I have made some very bad decisions.”

The official corruption charge relates to Pisasale agreeing to champion a Yamanto real estate project while mayor by influencing council workers and contractors.

Ms Farnden said he was promised up to $35 million if sales went ahead as planned but he never received the money.

What he actually got was the services of escorts and two cash payments.

Pisasale was also convicted of disobedience to statute law and unlawful possessing Sildenafil, which is often sold under the brand name Viagra.

The perjury conviction followed a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation that started in October 2017.

Pisasale gave false testimony at a CCC hearing with regard to carrying packages from interstate for barrister Sam Di Carlo.

A raft of fraud charges relate to Ipswich City Council property and money.

Pisasale had his assistant deposit $26,000 in donations into a personal bank account instead of disbursing it to the intended beneficiaries.

He spent $4322 of council money to travel to concerts in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Examples of blatantly misusing council funds,” Ms Farnden said

He also applied to his own use charity auction items, including sporting memorabilia, a barbecue, kitchen appliances, artwork, photographs, decorative items and whiskey.

But defence lawyer David Jones said Pisasale hadn’t “embarked on a campaign of personal enrichment”.

“These items weren’t found decorating the walls at his home,” he said.

“On one occasion, he donated a China tea set and later bid for it to come back,” he said.

Other items were used as gifts during official council business.

But Ms Farnden said Pisasale’s offending was “pivotal” to the systemically corrupt culture at the council.

“This type of offending damages the fabric of the community,” she said.

“He did not act with the integrity expected of someone in his position and he did not need to be persuaded in order to participate,” he said.

Pisasale was a popular mayor credited with the “renaissance” of Ipswich during his tenure as mayor from 2004 to 2017.

He resigned in June 2017 after 13 years in the position following a CCC raid at his office and home.

Pisasale was previously sentenced to two years’ prison, suspended after 12 months, after he was convicted of extortion in 2019.

He remains in custody and is expected to be sentenced for all 35 charges next Wednesday.

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